I am so proud to be a resident of lower Alabama. Every time we jump in the car for a quick trip to the beach, I know exactly how blessed I am. The Alabama Gulf Coast is a perfect place for a staycation with tons of activities and events to fit any budget.
If you live close to the Alabama coastline, here are a few things you can do on your vacation for free or cheap.
Related: Take a quick trip into Mississippi to visit Gulf Islands Waterpark. Read my review.
Located on Wolf Bay, Waterfront Park welcomes families with a 400’ fishing pier, covered pavilions and seating, picnic areas with grills, restrooms, and a paved walking path. Children will be especially pleased with the Lighted Kids Park that includes slides, swings and climbing areas.
Gulf Shores Museum
Visit the Gulf Shores Museum, residing in a pre-World War 2 home, to explore new and permanent exhibits. Seasonal programs and events are often available so contact the museum to see what might fit your agenda.
5 Rivers – Alabama’s Delta Resource Center
The 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center is located where the Mobile, Spanish, Tensaw, Apalachee and Blakeley rivers flow into Mobile Bay. With over 250,000 acres of scenic waterways, woods and wetlands available, the center welcomes horseback riding, fishing, paddling by canoe or kayak, and hiking.
Take a boat ride from our dock, threading through Sardine pass into the Blakeley River. Alligators, blue herons, various shore birds — maybe even a bald eagle! — will catch your eye as you cruise past the location of Civil War batteries and retrace the route that naturalist William Bartram took in the 1770s when he explored the Delta.
On selected Saturdays, the 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center hosts programs and demonstrations on topics that can include fly-fishing, crabbing, coastal fishing, birding along the coastal birding trail, canoeing the Bartram Canoe Trail, the art of cast-net throwing, waterfowl hunting, wildlife photography, alligator hunting, wild hog hunting, and more.
Environmental Studies Center
Nature-lovers will enjoy a trip to the Environmental Studies Center on Girby Road.
A property of the Mobile County Public School System, the Environmental Studies Center hosts a variety of camps during the summer (for a fee) but also has hours open to the general public.
With over 500 acres of woodlands filled by pine and bay forests, swamps, freshwater streams, carnivorous plant bogs, and a twenty-acre lake, visitors can view animals common to southern Alabama. Also available at the Environmental Studies Center are nature and hiking trails, a weather station and STARLAB Planetarium, live animal exhibits, native plants garden, classroom/exhibit space containing live reptiles and amphibians and a salt-water aquarium, and more.
Dauphin Island Audubon Bird Sanctuary
A protected space for migrating birds and butterflies, the Dauphin Island Audubon Bird Sanctuary stretches over 164 acres of habitat including a fresh water lake, Gulf beaches, swamp, pine forest, dune system and hardwood clearings. Selected by Wild Bird Magazine as one of the top four locations in North America for viewing spring migrations, the Dauphin Island Audubon Bird Sanctuary provides ample space for exploration with a 1,000 foot boardwalk, extensive trail system, and observation platforms.
With construction completed in 1834, Fort Morgan was an active military residence during the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and World Wars I and II, playing an instrumental role in the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay.
A third system masonry fort constructed between 1819 and 1834, the 479-acre site contains concrete artillery batteries constructed between 1895 and 1904, and historic military buildings dating from 1899 to 1910. A museum details the American military history of Mobile Point from 1814 to 1945. Exhibits feature weapons, uniforms, letters, photographs, and personal items of soldiers who served at the fort.
On Tuesday evenings in June and July, you can experience the atmosphere of the War of 1863 as living history interpreters portray historic accounts of actual occurrences during these Twilight Tours.
Across Mobile Bay from Fort Morgan stands Fort Gaines at the east end of Dauphin Island. Reportedly haunted, Fort Gaines was built upon the area settled by Pierre Le Moyne de’Iberville in 1699. The settlement was named “Massacre” due to what de’Iberville called a “mountain of human skeletons.”
Construction of the fort began in 1821 but was rumored to be cursed as a long list of problems and details complicated the construction process. The fort was restructured in 1853.
The northwest bastion is preserved in its original condition. The bricks used in construction were made by slave labor on Dog River, twenty miles to the north, then barged to the site. The intricate masonry, all without keystones, shows the detail and knowledge of symmetry the early brick craftsmen applied to their work.
Travel between the two forts is available by auto ferry.
Mobile Carnival Museum
Embrace the birthplace of Mardi Gras by visiting the Mobile Carnival Museum. The museum is filled with historical pieces from carnivals past including a stunning array of intricately designed costumes. Experience the life of a reveler as you climb aboard a float. Children can even dress in costume in the Little Mystics Den.
Gulf State Park
If you family enjoys camping, geocaching, swimming, and fishing, Gulf State Park in south Baldwin County provides 6,150 acres including two miles of pristine white-sand beaches. The campground is furnished with eleven modern bathhouses and welcomes both RVs and tents (by reservation).
While visiting Gulf State Park, visit the interactive Nature Center, new Tennis Courts, 18-hole Refuge Golf Course, and the largest fishing pier in the state of Alabama.
Foley Railroad Museum
A train depot built in 1904 now houses the Foley Railroad Museum and includes an incredible model railroad layout with a quarter mile of track. The exhibit boasts
- 3 operating double track routes and
- several animated sites.
Dauphin Island Beach (West End)
Before you reach the portion of Dauphin Island where hurricane Katrina ripped the island into two pieces, known to locals as “Katrina Cut,” you will find a stretch of beach maintained by the local authorities and the Friends of Dauphin Island. With easy access to the gulf- or bay-side, the attendants welcome you with southern charm. For a small fee, you can enjoy this remote location that comes complete with restroom trailers, outdoor showers, two dedicated life guard towers (gulf-side only), concession stand, and an inflatable water slide for the children (additional fee applies).
Other fun, free things to do
- Have a picnic near the Fairhope Pier and watch the sunset
- Feed the ducks and play on the playground at Langan Park
- Visit the Mobile Museum of Art for FREE on Thursdays
- Play in the fountain at the Eastern Shore Center
- Watch peanuts prepared on a 90 year old roaster at A&M Peanut Shop
- Browse the largest flea market on the Gulf Coast
- See what is in bloom at Mobile Botanical Gardens
- Walk among headstones dated back to 1830 at the Church Street Graveyard
- Drive under huge moss-adorned oaks and see antebellum homes dated back to the 1800’s
Come visit the Alabama Gulf Coast this summer!